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Gender diversity and bank risk-taking: an empirical investigation in Italy

Elisa Menicucci (Department of Business Studies, University of Roma Tre, Rome, Italy)
Guido Paolucci (Department of Management, Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona, Italy)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 9 September 2021

Issue publication date: 21 February 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between gender diversity and the risk profile of Italian banks during the period 2015–2019. This study examines whether the presence of female board directors or top executives has any significant effect on bank risk-taking.

Design/methodology/approach

To explore the influence of women on bank risk-taking, the authors analyzed a sample of 387 Italian banks and developed an econometric model applying unbalanced panel data with firm fixed effects and controls per year. Within a multivariate regression model, the authors considered five risk dimensions to verify the effect of gender diversity.

Findings

The findings suggest that female board directors and executives are considerably more risk averse and less overconfident than their male colleagues, thus confirming a negative causality between risk-taking and gender diversity. The results reveal that banks headed by women are less risky because they report higher capital adequacy and equity to assets ratios. As credit risk in female-led banks is no different from male-led ones, higher capital adequacy does not derive from lower asset quality because it is linked to the higher risk aversion of female directors and top managers.

Research limitations/implications

From a theoretical standpoint, the results suggest that having women in executive positions entails different risk implications for Italian banks; from a managerial perspective, the results highlight conditions that may promote the role of women in the banking sector. The conclusions are of particular significance because they provide some support for the view that regulators should favor gender quotas in the board management of banks to reduce risk-taking behavior.

Originality/value

This paper offers an in-depth examination of the risk practices of banks and it attempts to bridge the gap in prior literature on the risk profile of the Italian banking industry given that few empirical studies have examined the determinants of risk-taking in this field, to date. The findings on the higher risk aversion of women directors advance the understanding of the determinants of risk-taking behavior in banks, suggesting that gender quotas in bank boards can contribute to reducing risk-taking behavior. This also unveils some policy implications for bank regulatory authorities.

Keywords

Citation

Menicucci, E. and Paolucci, G. (2022), "Gender diversity and bank risk-taking: an empirical investigation in Italy", Corporate Governance, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 317-339. https://doi.org/10.1108/CG-11-2020-0498

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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